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Must You Finish Your Rotten Tea? [#ShortStory]

You know why generation after generation men are getting away with this behavior? Because women are tolerating it! They are to be blamed equally! And their parents too!

Here is the second winner of our September 2017 Muse of the Month contest, Tanvi Sinha.

The cue for this month was from the movie Neerja. When Neerja is a married woman facing domestic violence, she calls up her father, who tells her to believe in herself and never lose hope. That tolerating injustice is as bad as committing it, and that one has to know where to draw a line, when to say, “No more!”

Must You Finish Your Rotten Tea?

“Didi, yeh phekne ka hai?”

Shalu picked up a crumbled photograph of a smiling couple posing in the mountains, giving a rest to the broom. Her interest got drawn the moment she realized that the picture was of Reva didi.

Chodo usko! Tum apna kaam karo”, Mrs. Sharma snatched the photograph from Shalu’s hand, almost protectively.

Reva looked up from her book. Shalu looked at her, hoping to get some response.

“Anybody wants green tea? I am making for myself.” Reva said non-chalantly. Shalu looked disappointed. Mrs. Sharma gave Shalu a sharp look before turning to her daughter.

“Haan beta, I will have. But not green tea. Can you make regular tea with sugar and milk? Actually, your father would be coming back from walk, and Guddu will be back from tuitions. Make three cups na.”

Reva entered the kitchen. She changed her mind on the green tea. Might as well have regular tea, with the rest of the family, she thought. She placed four cups of carefully measured water on the burner. She started looking for the Premium Assam tea, her father’s favorite, but was interrupted by a phone call.

Lawyer Balakrishnan – flashed on her cell phone. She let it ring. She continued to look for tea.

“Reva, your phone is ringing Beta!” her mother yelled from the living room.

The phone started ringing for the second time. This time she decided to pick up.

“Madam, since you have already been living separately from your husband for over a year, we can file for a mutual consent divorce. I can share a draft with you by Monday. I would be needing your marriage registration certificate. And correct me how long you have been married? Four years or five years?

“Four years!” Reva replied sheepishly.

The water had started to boil. Reva put eight teaspoons of sugar in the pan. She reached out for the tea leaves and put them generously. Strong Assam tea, just like her father liked. She then put eight tablespoons of milk. Just the way her mother liked it. She added cardamom and cloves as per her brother’s taste. She covered the pan, and took the call outside to her bedroom.

“I can send a scanned copy of the marriage certificate. But first you tell me, how long will it take to complete the process?”

“If the hearing happens on time, then within seven to eight months from the filing as long as both parties are agreeable. I assure you. Everything will be over by the end of the year! But Madam, you have to be sure. Past two times, you have changed your mind!”

“I will call you tomorrow, and tell you my decision!”

Reva went back to the kitchen. Her father and brother were now back.

As she opened the lid, she was shocked to see that the tea looked ghastly white! How come? Had she forgotten to put the tea leaves? Well, of course not! She could see them! Had she put too much milk? No! She had measured. She took a sip.

“Eww!”

Oh man! She had accidentally put green tea leaves How could she! What was wrong with her! How could she make so many mistakes! She burst into tears.

Hearing her daughter’s sob, Mrs. Sharma came running to the kitchen.

What happened Beta?”

“Everything is ruined Maa! The tea… It is spoilt! I put green tea leaves by mistake! Along with ample sugar and milk!”

“Oh beta, this is such a small thing. Don’t cry! Let me see what I can do. I will put some more milk, and sugar and some Premium Assam tea. It will be fine!”

“What are your talking about Maa!” said Guddu. “Just throw that one away! And make a new one! It is already ruined!”

“We can’t just throw it all away! I have already invested so much in it! Milk! Sugar! Tea leaves! Cardamom! Cloves! All would be wasted! Got to fix it somehow!” Reva said. Her voice coarse from crying. Her voice louder than usual. She took another sip. “Oh, it is tasting so bitter and weird!”

“Green tea does not go with milk! Mr. Sharma stepped in. “The ingredients were not compatible! The bitterness will not go away. Ultimately you will have to get rid of it. Better now, than later!”

“Cannot waste half a cup of skimmed milk! And those green tea leaves, Sanjiv Bhaiya had got from Hong Kong! It has lemon and ginger also!” Mrs. Sharma hurried towards the refrigerator, desperate to do some damage control.

Let me drink it then!” Reva reached out for the cup.

No Didi!” Guddu snatched the cup from his sister. “You don’t have to punish yourself! It was a genuine mistake! It could happen to anyone. It is not your fault! Please let it go! You cannot salvage something that is already destroyed!”

Guddu threw the tea in the garbage before the mother and daughter could think of some other remedy. Mrs. Sharma started boiling water for another round of tea reluctantly.

After few minutes, Reva’s parents sat in the balcony, with their tea which was absolutely delightful.

“Wow! This is heavenly,” Mr. Sharma exclaimed.

Make one thing. Then you realize it is not perfect. So, throw it out then make something else! This new generation has no patience! What if the new tea did not taste great either! We should try to fix things! Giving up is easy!” Mrs. Sharma said to her husband with a visible frown.

“Oh, so we should always do the difficult thing right, because we get an award for being miserable?”

“Aap fir shuru ho gaye! Look at Reva’s state! Every two-three months she has such an outburst! This is what will happen na if she leaves her husband! Alok was her choice! She married him right out of college! Now what? She will be alone all her life or find another husband? And he was not so bad to her. He has just slapped her a few times! Mrs. Shrivastava’s daughter, she got beaten up by her husband for the first two years of her marriage. But she stayed. Five years later, they are happy parents of a son! Reva should have been more tolerant. Husbands and in-laws can be mean! But so many women still adjust!

“And why is adjusting to an abusive man a good thing? Shame on the Shrivastavas! You know why generation after generation men are getting away with this behavior? Because women are tolerating it! They are to be blamed equally! And their parents too! My daughter will not compromise on her principles! She will not go back to that idiot, spineless…”

He was interrupted, as he saw Reva standing at the door. How much had she heard? He was not sure.

“Come Beta. Had your tea? Wasn’t it awesome?” Mr. Sharma asked.

Papa, this tea Maa made was awesome! But even if there was no more tea, it is better to not drink anything than force that horrible garbage down my throat! Not worth it!”

Mr. Sharma nodded with a smile. Reva smiled back.

The same night Mr. Balakrishnan received a text message from Reva:

Please share the draft. I have made up my mind.

Tanvi Sinha wins a Rs 250 Amazon voucher, as well as a chance to be picked one among the top winners at the end of 2017. Congratulations! 

Image source: Photo by Ayo Ogunseinde on Unsplash

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